Bristle-tailed bettons are a rare marsupial species that have nearly disappeared in Australia due to human activities and invasive species such as cats and foxes. Today, however, scientists are making efforts to restore populations of these animals.
History of the Brush-tailed Bettongs in Australia
The brush-tailed bettongs (Bettongia penicillata) are small marsupials that were once widespread in southern and western Australia. But after Europeans introduced cats and foxes to Australia, the brush-tailed bettongs, defenseless against these predators, became almost extinct. The last of the species survived on islets off the coast of Western Australia and a few small patches on the continent.
Recovery of populations of brush-tailed baetongs
Today, scientists are trying to reintroduce the Quistail Bettongs to the areas where they once lived. One of the reintroduction projects for this species started a few years ago on the York Peninsula in South Australia. The southern part of the peninsula is partially fenced off from the larger land by a fence that keeps cats and foxes out, and inside the fence their numbers are regulated by shootings, traps and poisons. Thus, small native mammals may feel safer here than in most other parts of Australia.
In 2021, experts released 40 microchipped brush-tailed baetongs in Dhilba Guurand Innes National Park on the far southwest side of the York Peninsula. The animals were brought from Wedge Island, home to a population of about 2,500. They were later joined by another 80 animals from Wedge and the Upper Warren Conservation Area in Western Australia. And later this year, the final batch of about 120 bettongs will arrive in the national park.
The results of the brush-tailed batting reintroduction project
Although the York Peninsula Quistail Bettong Reintroduction Project is far from complete, it has already begun to bear fruit. When the researchers caught 85 of them in the national park this year, about half of them were found to be unmarked. That means they were born on the peninsula. Moreover, some of the females born in the national park had cubs – representatives of the second local generation – in their pouches. Thus, the brush-tailed bettongs not only adapted to the peninsula, but also began to breed here. According to zoologists’ estimates, about 200 representatives of the species live here now.
The reintroduction of the Cygnetus bettong on the York Peninsula in South Australia is an important step towards saving this rare species. Scientists continue to work on this project to ensure the safety and welfare of these animals in their natural habitat.